HEARTFELT tributes have been paid after the tragic death of a popular community champion and ex senior police officer.
Michael Baker MBE, who not only headed ground-breaking projects for Greater Manchester Police (GMP) but also helped to found one of the borough’s biggest voluntary schemes, died suddenly on Friday aged 54.
Described as an inspiration, caring and funny character, his death has come as a shock to many throughout Leigh, the borough and wider communities.
Michael has also been responsible as a trustee and founding member of one of the borough’s biggest voluntary schemes, Trust in Leigh.
He leaves behind wife, Carol, two sons Thomas, 27, and Matthew, 26, and parents Tony and Mildred.
Michael grew up in Pennington, and it was here he discovered his love of rugby union, though he did play both codes.
A keen sportsman, he played predominately for Leigh Rugby Union and also Lancashire County rugby, an achievement that was mirrored by his two sons both captaining the county and Matthew playing for England schoolboys.
Sadly, injury cut his rugby career short, but he never abandoned the game, and he soon took up a role which involved working with the volunteers for the team’s youth and community section as well as being an active member of the club.
After leaving school, Michael joined Greater Manchester Police aged 19 and worked his way up through the ranks, eventually retiring after 32 years service as a Detective Chief Superintendant.
Upon retiring he then began work for Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), specialising in mapping of serious and organised crime, it was for this work that he received his MBE.
Michael then decided on a change of direction, wanting to give something back to the area that he held so dear.
He was able to translate the skills learnt from years policing to set up Trust in Leigh, a charitable partnership, along side his close friends and local men, Les Thomas and Trevor Barton MBE in 2013.
The organisation has gone on to transform much of the borough’s voluntary sector and cultural amenities including the Turnpike Gallery
Most importantly to Michael, he was a dedicated family man, who loved nothing more than being at home with his beloved family and friends.
It was during his time at the police he met his soulmate, Carol. They would have been celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in August this year and had by two sons, Thomas and Matthew.
Carol, 52, said: “I am heartened, overwhelmed and comforted by the hundreds of messages, cards and wishes, each one highlighting Michael’s love of life, his friendship and commitment to other people. The love and support that I am receiving is insuring that I haven’t lost him and he remains with me always.”
Matthew, 26, said: “He was simply the greatest and best man I ever knew.”
Thomas, 27, added: “My dad was such a hero to me and many others.”
A statement on the Lancashire RFU’s website said: “Mike will be a great loss to the volunteering community within Lancashire, and all our thoughts are with his family, Carol, Tom and Matthew.”
The funeral takes place at St Joseph’s Church, Chapel Street, Leigh, at 2.15pm this Monday followed by committal at Howe Bridge crematorium at 4pm. Family are inviting folk to bring a memory of Michael written on a piece of paper to put in a box for the family to read; and also to make donations to charity instead of bringing flowers.